“See You On Mars”
Oh how I wish more modern indie rock bands drew influence from Quasi. I mean, come on you guys, Sam Coomes and Janet Weiss’ blend of noised-out sonic fuckery with pop classicism is a territory that gets examined too infrequently these days. The band’s label-mate Deerhoof and Women (RIP) are two artists whose work mines similar territory, but other than a handful of aesthetic similarities, all three groups have distinctive musical languages. Quasi’s particular voice has been pretty well established since their debut record and has remained singular ever since. As a result, Quasi have managed to fully explore/subvert every angle of their particular brand of noise pop throughout their career, and their latest album Mole City might be their most expansive and complete statement yet.
Mole City is a sloppy and sprawling 24-song record that plays with multiple facets of the duo’s sound. Quasi are true songwriting craftspeople, so nearly every tune is a structurally perfect pop gem that then gets subjected to their lo-fi experimentation. Just about any track from the record could’ve been their lead single, but the two that were chosen (“You Can Stay But You Gotta Go” and “See You On Mars”) are some of the most immediate tunes the duo has ever written. “You Can Stay But You Gotta Go” is a riff-heavy blast of gloriously disgusting gated-fuzz pop, and it’s great. But I just can’t get enough of “See You On Mars,” which recalls the keyboard-heavy work of Featuring Birds. “See You On Mars” has some of the silliest lyrics of any Quasi song, but they are still laced with Coomes’ trademark flippancy, and when coupled with the song’s hook-laden, suite-like structure, they make for a particularly memorable Quasi tune. So, put down your Haim records , listen to Mole City, and submit yourself to Quasi’s gloriously fucked-up pop.
Mole City is available now via Kill Rock Stars. You can watch the video for “See You On Mars” above.
“Vertigo / Psycho”
The officer walks you into a tiny concrete room and sits you at the table. You feel your pulse throbbing in your temples. “Don’t worry kid, we’re gonna figure out who did this to you,” he tells you. He presses a button on a panel by the door and speakers descend from the ceiling. “I know you don’t remember much, But listen to these guys and tell me if one of ‘em sounds familiar. Maybe we can ID the bastard.” He presses [PLAY] on the remote and the first guitar hits, all major seventh chords and nice little jazzy flourishes. This is not the man you saw on stage last night. The second sample sounds scuzzier, distortion damaged. Almost there, but not quite right. The third kicks in with chunky block chords, pristine atonal fingerpicking, straight up raw, man, each note at once perfectly right and perfectly wrong. Jackpot. You clutch your head, and it all comes flooding back.
You went to the show alone. The guitarist stood on stage with a sombrero sitting way back on his skull, surrounded by pedals. He bent down to adjust a knob, and when he looked up for a second, it seemed like he looked right at you. A cryptic smile spread across his face. He flipped on his amp and started playing, no, like, spewing notes out in a cascade of tritones, all horror-score-core, and that’s when you recognize it. Among all the looping, whammy-ing, ring modulating, string mangling — it’s Bernard Hermann’s theme from Psycho. By the time the Vertigo theme emerges from a massive swirl of delay feedback, it’s over for you. You’re falling through a monochromatic red expanse with nothing to grab onto, as a white tesseract spirals off before you into the abyss.
“That’s the guy,” you tell the policeman. He starts to laugh.
“Whaaaat, hearing Gary Lucas konked you out? The man’s a walking legend. Played with the goddam Captain Beefheart himself. Ever heard of ‘Flavor Bud Living?’ Yes? No? We’re talkin’ 20+ solo albums, kid.” He claps you on the back and points at the door. “You’re gonna need to grow a pair, real quick, ‘cause Lucas’s new album Cinefantastique is all solo guitar reinterpretations of movie themes and — guess what? — it’s already available.”
Mmmdamn! And you were thinking Liz Harris’ new project was hot? Yo, think AGAIN! ‘Cause Clay Rendering, consisting of Mike (Wolf Eyes, Failing Lights) and Tara Connelly (The Pool At Metz, The Haunting), is ripping it this year via two singles on their release Vengeance Candle. They had formed around this time last year, put out a 12-inch of their tracks “Nature’s Confusion” and “Vengeance Candle” during the winter-into-spring time(s) on Hospital Productions, and now (to this writer’s contentment) have released it on cassette via Sans Issue.
It don’t matter if I gotta keep catching it on the flippity flip. I will wear my welcome on that reel with a passionate ear. Also, if you live in Boston or NYC, you can scope ‘em live on the tail end of their fall tour, making sweet sound love to you in the audience. Ima convince my fiancée to hit ‘em up this FriFri. If you’re out, I’ll be wearing my C Monster shirt (got it at Urban Outfitters for $5, fuck on me). Come say “Hi!”
David Van Tieghem & Georgia
I wish I had the motivation and funding to gather some of the most interesting musicians of today, alongside various artists from music history, into a room with the end goal in mind of recording a collaborative album. I’m sure we’ve all had that conversation. Everyone’s a curator.
The new release in the FRKWYS series from RVNG Intl. is a collaboration between longtime NY experimental staple David Van Tieghem and a number of different artists from around the city, including Georgia, Megafortress, and Blanche Blanche Blanche, among others. According to the label, the album was made from a “bulletin board” littered with “broken toasters, firecrackers, 2x4s, thunder drums and customized electronics, each intended as a percussive device,” which Van Tieghem then played, recording the whole experiment in high definition.
“Whoa, cool!” I know, but I’m not done yet. Those recordings were then given back to the contributing artists to remix and reinterpret as they wished. And LASTLY, those interpretations were THEN given BACK to Van Tieghem for the final editing process. Sound volleyball.
The final product is FRKWYS Vol. 10: Fits & Starts, out November 12 on RVNG. Listen to the official audio of “Slippery Slope” below:
“Glamour Box (ostinati)”
I’d love to start off with something like, “When it comes to Ulver, the only thing we can expect is the unexpected,” but by this point the Norwegian outfit has been consistently
- exploring synth tones and ambient textures (2000, 2002, 2007)
- composing or arranging classical pieces (1998, 2005, 2011)
- interpolating numerous strains of experimental music (2000, 2001, 2005)
for more than a decade, as mythic frontman Kristoffer
- God Head
- Fiery G Maelstrom
Rygg steers his collaborators through increasingly ambitious projects — all of which could be seen as an unfathomable second career in the wake of their pioneering black metal youth spent
- juxtaposing tremolo-picked shreddery with acoustic interludes (1995, 1996).
- conjuring forest spirits and the demons of the night (1995, 1996).
- literally recording outside in the forest (1996).
2011’s War of the Roses carried on the group’s classical predilection by lacing instrumental overdubs and operatic vocals into its dense “electronic”-“rock” productions. If that album underwhelmed, the newly released Messe I.X - IV.X, recorded in participation with
- The Tromso Chamber Orchestra of the Norwegian Arctic Philharmonic,
- Norwegian composer Martin Romberg,
- a host of Norwegian avant all-stars (this one, this one, this one, this one),
finds the band honing their neo-classical fusion into a majestic lance and piercing our hearts with a giant “I told you so!” while a cinematic tableau of string players scraping bows and synth knobs spinning projects out onto the horizon as the background of our ignominious defeat. Scope out
- the allegro agitato drama of “Glamour Box (ostinati),” below.
- the Terry Riley-channeling deep zones of “Shri Schneider” @Pitchfork.
– the order pages for the LP and CD.
Ms. Lauryn Hill
If Grace Jones is channeling and contorting the amorphous fluidity of late-capitalism (late? late? late?), then Ms. Lauryn Hill is its incessant and nagging alter-ego; the ghost of a residual anger buried deep beneath the fog of “never having it so good.”
Ms. Lauryn Hill’s “Consumerism” gives audiences a reduction of all isms to one robotic homonym. Not the beguiling fantasy machines of an afro-futurist utopia, but the one-cyborg production line of a gradually homogeneous mashed-up political alternative. As her incarcerated body lets rip its torrent of colliding words, she seems to be doing, pushing, and lashing out at time. Filling it to breaking point (@4:50). This is anger, however righteous, turned into an endless wormhole of Wikipedia links.
Grace Jones is forcing us to confront the way in which, today, even the transgression that might have thrilled us twenty-five years ago is little more than another marketing strategy. Or the way in which, beyond all those discourses about race and gender and “the body,” the only thing that is “transgressive” today is Capital itself, which devours everything without any regard for boundaries, distinctions, or degrees of legitimacy; which “transgresses” the very possibility of “transgression,” because it is always only transgressing itself in order to create still more of itself, devouring not only its own tail but its entire body, in order to achieve even greater levels of monstrosity.
But all we’re left wondering, “How’s this shit going to make Ms. Lauryn Hill any money?” Answers may consist in her newest track “Consumerism” streaming below: